Fandango [1985]

An unknown Kevin Costner is magnetic in this entertaining road picture that bypassed most theaters when it was released in 1985. On the eve of their college graduation in 1972, five students go off for one last road trip together to righteously celebrate the privilege of youth. Kevin Reynolds expanded his grad-school film to make this one, which he also directed, and it caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who made Fandango one of his first projects at the newly formed Amblin. Costner's charisma is undeniable in his first lead performance as Gardner Barnes, the free bird of the group. Barnes applauds buddy Kenneth's (Sam Robards) decision to cancel his wedding and now is talking him into dodging the draft. But lost love drives Gardner, too, and we see dreams of an abandoned beauty (Suzy Amis). Others in the car include stick-in-the-mud Judd Nelson (in his best performance), who is gung ho for fulfilling his duty in Vietnam, and the soft giant Dorman (Chuck Bush). Reynolds's aggressive camera style and great use of music (Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)" and Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" bookend the picture) make this film zing along. Reynolds and Costner went on to film (and fight off-screen) two more pictures, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld, but they were never better together than in this first film. Being hungry Hollywood unknowns does have certain advantages. --Doug Thomas

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